There are three fairly indisputable facts about enterprise IT today:
- Cloud services are here to stay. The question of whether SaaS, PaaS and IaaS models are “enterprise ready” is largely a thing of the past. While there certainly are valid debates around suitability for particular workloads, the question is turning to where, when, and how cloud models can best be utilized.
- Business users have choice. IT no longer has a monopoly on technology services. Third-party cloud service providers can often offer more attractive value propositions directly to users, developers, and other consumers of IT services.
- Agility is table stakes. The business is facing unprecedented pressure to become more agile. Incumbent competitors and start-ups alike are seeking to drive disruption with cloud and DevOps models. Customers and partners are driving their own digital transformations and expecting vendors to keep pace. Agility is more than an imperative for the business. It is rapidly becoming table stakes.
The implication? CIOs need to recognize that, whether they like it or not, they are now service providers that compete with third-party vendors like Amazon, Salesforce.com, Google, and others. Deliver the agility the business needs, or watch the budget dollars go out the door.
Adapting to these new realities is requiring CIOs to drive transformation to ITaaS models that require new organizational models, processes, skills, services and technologies. One of the biggest areas of change is around the new business roles required to support a new service provider model. The CIOs that are making the shift are rapidly discovering that one role in particular is critical to enabling the ITaaS model: Product Management.
In the vendor world, product managers are generally responsible for translating business needs into engineering requirements. They are the primary contact points for ensuring products and services provide the capabilities needed at a market-competitive price. They talk to customers, analyze the market, define what’s needed, and develop the roadmap for delivery. They provide the critical link between customers and products.
So why do CIOs need internal product managers?
IT needs to provide business users access to world-class services to remain competitive, whether they be provided internally, externally, or in combination. Gone are the days of “build it and they will come.” Business users now have choice with the cloud, and in many cases are using it.
To maintain customer relevance in a new ITaaS operating model, CIOs need to be able to determine the right answers to three critical questions on a continual basis:
- What services do our users and developers want and truly need to be competitive?
- Is the IT organization or an external vendor best positioned to provide these services?
- How are these services going to be orchestrated, integrated, and managed?
The traditional role of IT business analyst—with its focus on business architecture, process modeling and analysis—won’t fit the bill. Strong business and technical problem solving is required. This ability to constantly monitor customers and the market and adjust the services portfolio as necessary is the quintessential description of a good product manager.
This isn’t to say that CIOs need to go out and hire an army of product managers. Another layer of management and bureaucracy won’t improve innovation and agility. It does say that CIOs need to rapidly figure out how the function is going to be provided and who will lead the core processes associated with the role.